Before reading this book, I had never heard of Coxinga, the "Pirate King." After reading it, I realized there were a lot of other things I had never heard of, either. I learned about early 17th century southeast China, about the position of the island we know today as Taiwan in relation to the mainland, and about the amazingly cyclical nature of Chinese history in general. What impressed me most, though, was to see how much interchange there was in the area so long ago, among totally different cultures. I never imagined that there was a "pirate king" in the South China area in the 17th century who was half-Japanese, who fought the invading Manchus on the mainland, the Dutch on Taiwan, had dealings with the Spanish, Portuguese, English, and even kept a contingent of African warriors about him. If the story seems almost too wild to be true, Clements has thoroughly documented it, with entertaining footnotes and appendices, once again proving that there is really no need to write fiction; reality is much more fantastic. In fact, while this book could be used as a history or reference book, readers out for entertainment need not fear that it will serve as a sleeping pill at night, or lie around gathering dust. _Pirate King_ is a rip-snorting, hair-raising, blood-curdling adventure, with murders and betrayals and empires collapsing and everyone jockeying for power or self-preservation. And Clements feasts on historical irony, unexpected twists of events, and obscure but interesting figures of history-- such as one anonymous European in the area who defected first from the Dutch, then from the Zheng clan of pirate-smugglers, and finally joined the Manchus, thus enjoying "the unique position of having fought on all three sides of the prolonged conflict." I frankly doubt if many other writers could have done the Coxinga story justice. The history of this period is so rich and deep and complicated, and Coxinga straddled so many cultures, that without a writer like Clements-- who has exceptional language skills and an ability to synthesize vast amounts of information-- it would be far too easy to get lost. In fact, there are many other great stories touched on in this book, and I only hope Clements will one day develop them, too.